One of the most important but least understood health conditions for men in the United States is the subject of prostate health. There are two prostate conditions with which every man needs to be familiar: the much more common problem of BPH, which exceeds 60% for men over 75 years old, and the less common prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer for American men, but lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer. About 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. However, only 1 in 39 men will die of prostate cancer. Sixty percent of these diagnosed cases are in men older than 65 years of age. For most men (not all), the prostate cane is so slow growing that the man dies from something unrelated before the prostate cancer kills him—for these men, a process of “watchful waiting” is commonly the best course of action. Your physician would be able to help you determine the best approach based on your exact situation and the state of cancer.
Prostate cancer and benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) have some overlapping symptoms but differ greatly in their outcomes. Some men in the early states of prostate cancer do not have symptoms, but may develop the symptoms later. Men who have any of these symptoms should bring them to the attention of their physician. When a man does have symptoms of prostate cancer, the following are most common:
- blood in semen
- painful ejaculations
- swelling of legs or pelvis
- numbness or pain in the hips, legs, or feet
- pain or burning on urination
- weak or interrupted urination
- difficulty starting urine flow or holding back urine
Signs common to both prostate cancer and BPH include not fully emptying the bladder causing frequent urination, having to strain to start urination, and bladder/kidney infections. Serious health risks would be a weak bladder, full blockage of urine, bladder/kidney infections, and, of course, the cancer growth itself. Most men over the age of 50 will experience some of these problems with the vast majority being the result of BPH, not prostate cancer. Some men choose to have surgery for the BPH, but before this is considered, you should learn all the side effects and risks of the surgery. There is an extensive list of supplements which could be effective in relieving the symptoms of BPH, but the list of supplements to prevent prostate cancer is more limited. Green tea, lycopene, and Pygeum africanum have at least some evidence of effectiveness in preventing prostate cancer, but no evidence of value if the cancer is already present. Vitamin D is possibly effective in reducing the rate of prostate cancer.
BPH is abnormal cell growth (non-cancerous) in the prostate which causes the prostate to enlarge around the urethra, restricting the flow of urine. This restriction causes the bulk of the symptoms associated with BPH. The extra growth is thought to be mediated by changes in hormones as a man ages. Supplements shown to be effective in BPG are:
- saw palmetto
- Pygeum africanum
- stinging nettle
- pumpkin seed oil
- L-glutamic acid
- vitamin D